a badminton player clutches his elbow

Tennis Elbow Prevention: 6 Tips to Avoid Injury

Tennis elbow, clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, is a common condition characterized by pain and inflammation in the elbow due to overuse of the forearm muscles and tendons. Tennis elbow prevention becomes very important for us tennis players who are the prime victims of this injury. It is often associated with repetitive motions, such as those in tennis or other racquet sports, but can also occur in individuals performing any activity that strains the elbow joint. Symptoms typically include elbow pain, tenderness on the outer elbow, and a weakened grip.

Why Might I Get Tennis Elbow?

Now, you might wonder, “Why might I get tennis elbow?” Well, it’s a fair question! The culprit is often the repetitive motion of hitting the ball – yes, the very essence of our beloved game.

Each time you strike the ball, it’s like sending a tiny shockwave through your arm, and over time, this can lead to inflammation and pain in the elbow. So, as we delve into Tennis Elbow Prevention, remember, it’s not just about playing the game, It’s about playing it smart. Let’s look at how we can keep our elbows as happy as we are on the court!

TL:DR: I Need to Get on the Court Now!

Tennis Elbow can’t be remedied immediately, the best and only treatments require rest. Though if you want to play for whatever reason with tennis elbow, there are some ways to prevent the pain. However this will cause further inflammation and is not recommended.

The easiest way would be to take painkillers like ibuprofen in order to limit how painful the movement is. In a tennis context, another option is to play only for technique, limiting how much you actually use the muscles in your shots.

The main causes of tennis elbow are misshits and having the wrong string tension. If you want to rule out your string tension as a factor, using a calculator to find out what string tension fits you is recommended.

Make sure that if tennis elbow keeps occuring, you consult a professional about your playing habits.

Tennis Elbow Prevention: What Can I Do to Avoid It?

Proper Technique:

Master the basics: Work on having a fluid, natural swing and correct stance on all of your tennis shots. This reduces unnecessary strain on your elbow. Regularly practising with a coach can help identify and correct any technical flaws.

Follow through: Ensure that each stroke is complete, extending through the ball, which helps in dispersing the impact more evenly across your arm. This full extension prevents the elbow from absorbing too much shock.

Stay relaxed: A tense grip on the racket increases the risk of tennis elbow. Practice holding the racket firmly yet comfortably to reduce stress on your arm.

Equipment Check:

Racket weight and balance: A racket that’s too heavy can strain your elbow. Choose a racket that feels comfortable for the duration of your play, keeping in mind that a well-balanced racket can also help in reducing strain.

Grip size: An incorrectly sized grip can lead to overcompensation by your arm muscles, increasing the risk of injury. Measure your grip size by holding the racket and ensuring a snug fit between your fingers and palm.

String tension: Strings that are too tight can transmit more shock to the elbow. Experiment with lower tension if you start to feel discomfort, or consult with a racket specialist for personalized advice.

Strength and Flexibility Training:

Forearm strengthening: Incorporate exercises like wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and squeezing a tennis ball to build strength in the forearm, which supports the elbow joint.

Shoulder and wrist exercises: Strengthening your shoulder and wrist can help in better shock absorption. Exercises like shoulder presses and wrist flexor and extensor exercises are beneficial.

Stretch regularly: Include stretches for your arms, wrists, and shoulders both before and after playing. This increases flexibility and reduces the risk of muscle and tendon strains.

Pre and Post-Game Care:

Warm-up properly: Begin with light aerobic exercises like jogging or jumping jacks, followed by dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles.

Cool down: Post-match, engage in static stretching, focusing on your arms, shoulders, and back to help muscles relax and reduce stiffness.

Ice if necessary: Applying ice to your elbow after play can help in reducing inflammation and pain. Wrap the ice in a cloth to avoid direct skin contact.

Regular Breaks and Rest:

Don’t overdo it: Schedule your playing and practice sessions with adequate breaks. Continuous play without rest increases the risk of tennis elbow.

Listen to your body: Pay attention to any signs of pain or fatigue. Ignoring these signs can lead to more serious injuries. Rest is crucial for recovery and prevention.

Consider Professional Advice:

Technique assessment: A professional can provide valuable insights into your playing style and identify potential risks for tennis elbow. They can offer corrective techniques and drills.

Physiotherapy: A physiotherapist can provide targeted exercises to strengthen the muscles around the elbow and offer strategies to prevent tennis elbow based on your specific needs.

a badminton player clutches his elbow

What to Do If You Already Have Tennis Elbow?

If you’re already grappling with tennis elbow, don’t worry – you’re not alone, and there are effective ways to manage it. First and foremost, it’s crucial to give your elbow a break from tennis. I know it sounds like a tough love approach, but sometimes stepping back is the best way forward. While you’re off the court, icing the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain. Think of it as a cooldown session for your elbow.

Physical therapy can also be a game-changer. A therapist can provide you with specific exercises that focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles around the elbow. These exercises are like targeted training for your elbow, helping it to recover and become more resilient.

A tennis elbow brace can be really helpful in keeping the muscles still to ensure a speedy recovery. Don’t try to play with the tennis elbow brace on though, it’s always best to stay rested to allow the muscles to recover.

Don’t forget about over-the-counter pain relievers too. They can be helpful in managing pain and inflammation, but remember, they’re just part of the solution, not the whole game plan.

Lastly, when you’re ready to return to tennis, do so gradually. Ease back into playing and continue to implement the tennis elbow prevention strategies we discussed earlier. It’s about playing smarter, not just harder. With the right approach, you can make your comeback stronger and more informed than ever. Remember, every setback is a setup for a comeback!

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